Four policemen were killed after militants detonated a powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in north Kashmir’s Sopore town on Saturday morning. This is the second major militant attack this new year and the first big IED explosion in a decade.
Though the Jaish-e-Mohammad has, in a statement to a local news agency, claimed responsibility for the Sopore attack, police say they are still investigating the case.
Police sources said the attack was pre-planned since militants had expected a huge deployment of forces in the town following a shutdown call given by separatists. On Saturday, Sopore town had been shut to protest against the 1993 killing of over 50 civilians, allegedly by paramilitary forces.
Personnel of the J&K police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) had been deployed in large numbers across the town, especially in areas where stone-pelting was expected. The IED was detonated at Gole Market in Sopore’s main chowk. “Normally, there is heavy security deployment in that area to prevent stone pelting,” a police officer said. “They (militants) probably expected this and placed the IED there”.
Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Muneer Khan, who rushed to Sopore immediately after the explosion, said the IED was placed under a shop front and went off as soon as personnel of the Indian Reserve Police (IRP) reached there. “It was a powerful explosion,” he said. “There was a huge crater (at the spot) and six or seven shops were severely damaged”.
Though militants frequently used IEDs in the 1990s, they were rarely used in the last decade. While there have been occasional low-intensity IED blasts in the Valley in the last decade, including one in 2015, Saturday’s explosion was the first big one since July 2008, when militants targeted an Army convoy at Narbal on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. Ten soldiers had been killed and 18 injured in that blast 10 years ago.
ADGP Khan termed Saturday’s attack a new challenge for security agencies. “This is the first IED explosion since 2015,”he said. “We will have to think about it, how to deal with such a situation. We will put our heads together, chalk out some new strategy to tackle this thing”.
After a violent 2017, the Valley has had no respite in the new year. On January 1, a 37-hour gun fight between fidayeen and security forces had ended with five paramilitary personnel and three militants getting killed.
Those killed in Saturday’s attack have been identified as 58-year-old Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) Irshad Ahmad from Doda in Jammu, Constable Ghulam Nabi of Sopore, Constable Parvaiz Ahmad of Handwara and Constable Mohammad Amin of Kupwara.